Monumental First Impressions

Monumental Kickstarter Review

The first thing you notice about Monumental, the upcoming civilisation building board game from Fun Forge that's now on Kickstarter, is just how stunningly beautiful it looks. As I sat down to play a demo version of the game at this year’s Tabletop Gaming Live, I was overwhelmed by the splash of colour, the well designed and clear iconography, and the absolutely amazing looking miniatures, so much so that it took a few moments to draw myself away from the visuals to learn the rules, and it was then that I found that Monumental’s beauty was more than skin deep.

Monumental may distract you, with its randomised modular board, constructed from the wobbley hexagons that are so hot right now. It tempts you with a worlds to explore, barbarians to subjugate and lands to conquer all in the grand name of [insert name of ancient civilisation here] but in reality Monumental is more of a deck builder than a civilisation game, having more in common with Tyrants of the Underdark than it does with games such as 7 Wonders and Fantasy Flight Games’ take on Sid Meier’s  Civilisation games.

Monumental kickstarter review miniatures

Much like most deck-building games, Monumental is based around a number of resources; military allows you to move your units across the board, construction is used to purchase upgrades for your deck and science can be spent to buy special upgrades or draw cards from your deck. There’s also culture, a special resource that allows you to play some huge upgrades to your game and gold that can be played as any of the above.

What’s different is the way you play the cards available; as you draw cards from the deck you will place them in a nine by nine grid, representing your capital city but instead of getting the resources from every card you’ve played, you’ll have to choose one column and one row of cards, getting the resources from those cards alone.

Monumental deck building game

Normally in a deck builder you’ll draw as many cards as you can, and then blow the lot like a lottery winner at a high-stake poker table but Monumental forces you to take a more measured approach, carefully considering which cards will allow you to do what you want on this turn and which cards to leave in place for your next turn. It’s something fresh and innovative and one that pings the lightbulb in your brain that says “wow, that’s clever”.

The fun doesn’t stop there though, as selecting your cards is just the beginning of your turn. With careful use of your resources you’ll be aiming to string together a series of actions; military allows you to conquer a new territory that provides you with construction, construction is spent to place a card on deck of your draw pile and then you spend a science to play that card, which gives you more military and allows you to claim even more resources.

Monumenatal table hog review

A well-played out turn will involve stringing together many actions, chaining combos together to exploit more of the board and chain even more actions.

As you fire off these chains it evokes a happy place that’s hard to convey to a non-board gamer. Somewhere between euphoria and flow, it’s the happy satisfaction that comes from all the moving parts of a game falling into place and you the player pulling off that killer move. Many games achieve this feeling, but its Monumental that first made me realise that this is a thing.

Monumental kickstarter board game review

But, like the Sword of Damocles, Monumental has one large problem, dangling over its enjoyment.

Monumental has one big issue, and I don’t mean that its started to sell magazines to help the homeless. Because there is so much a player can do in their turn—and a good player is going to able to chain their actions to claim more resources, to create more actions that in turn will claim more resources—it does mean that player’s turns can take a considerable amount of time, and while this is happening your opponents can do nothing but watch events unfold.

In a two player game I can imagine that this isn’t going to be huge problem, but in a four-player game, well, you better make sure you’ve got a good book to hand or some knitting, because although there is some planning you can do on another player’s turn, the board state and range of cards available to purchase could have changed considerably by the time it comes back round to you.

Monumental japanese miniatures

Monumental is a clever combination of both area control and deck building game, all built around a beautiful realised take on the civilisation building genre. It’s packed to the brim with fascinating mechanics and interesting decisions that make you feel oh so clever as you string together combo after combo, but the downtime is crushing and feels like civilisations could have risen and fallen in the time between turns.

Monumental is on Kickstarter now.

This Kickstarter preview is based on a prototype version of the game played at Tabletop Gaming Live; the final product may look, play or smell different to that used in this preview.
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